SOME 56,000 Leaving Cert students will go through the doors of exam centres around the country today.
For many of these young people it will be the most gruelling and stressful period yet encountered in their young lives.
Today marks the culmination of up to six years of secondary school education.
Over the next couple of weeks, students' powers of recall will be tested to the limit - as will their analytical skills.
The exam is an important milestone that can play a vital part in students' lives and have a major impact on their future careers. It's also an anxious and stressful time for parents.
Even old timers like me, who sat the exam many moons ago, always remember what it was like.
In fact, the Leaving Cert remains one of the few events in my life that I still have nightmares about. In my day, exam opportunities were very limited and we had only one bite at the cherry, unlike today. A university education was not an option for the majority of us.
If one didn't succeed in getting a job in the public service as a teacher or a garda, it was the boat for England - and that was where I ended up for a few years after the Leaving Cert.
Thank God those times have changed. Now-adays, students have a wider choice. If they don't achieve their required points, there are many third-level institutions where they can further their careers.
The Leaving Cert is no longer the be all and end all. In fact, many of Ireland's most successful business people and public figures didn't make a great fist of the exam at all. Every student should bear that in mind today. Good luck to them all.